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Massage Today
June, 2009, Vol. 09, Issue 06

Time to Get Creative

By Jenn Sommermann, LCMT

Currently, there are two factors happening simultaneously that can greatly affect your massage therapy practice. Both are equally important. No article would be complete without talking about the economy.

An educated, savvy clientele can also impact the bottom-line. I believe these two factors, the economy and a more educated clientele, are the key factors affecting the practice of every massage therapist. Now is the time to dig deep, think outside the box and be more creative in the ways you approach marketing, client retention and referral programs.

If you read my last article, "Make Your Client's Experience Memorable" (April 2009 issue), you learned that positioning yourself on the side of health care versus personal care, makes you less likely to suffer in this economic down turn. Clients are forgoing some personal care services in effort to save money or redirect spending. But amazingly, health care has not suffered as much. If your massage services are considered health care, chances are you are managing these troubled times and will come out on the other side in good shape. This is all about educating the client and it starts with you.

The general population is also learning more about massage services and complementary health care, in general. They are more educated about the benefits of massage therapy, more discerning and seeking massage more frequently and in higher numbers. In fact, according to the American Massage Therapy Association's 2009 Industry Fact Sheet, 24 percent of American adults received a massage in the last 12 months. They just plain know more. You need to approach them in ways that speak to them; address what they want and need and entice them to use your services.

I believe these two factors, the economy and a more educated clientele, have forced the need for you to go beyond what you are currently doing. Gone are the days when you can rest on your reputation to keep new business coming in. Today you must be creative, passionate and vigilant in the way you pursue new business, keep your existing business coming back for more, and obtain referrals. This can be broken into three categories: marketing - bringing in the new clients; client retention - keeping the clients you have; and referral programs - obtaining new clients from the existing ones.


What creative ways are you marketing your services? Are you marketing health care or personal care? Too often I see massage therapists rely on printed marketing materials to gain new clients. In today's world, printed materials are not as effective, as the marketing platform is already saturated. What "out-of-the-box" method can you use to drum up new business? This past Valentine's Day, I went to my local florist and gave her six complimentary half hour gift certificates (with the ability to upgrade to an hour for an additional $45). I asked her to put the gift certificates in the floral arrangements of her five "high-end" customers, within a geographic area that I prescribed and keep one gift certificate for herself. She loved the idea. It made her arrangements more desirable and special and it got my name out to folks in a very personal way. Nothing beats a personal referral and the florist's recommendation was "golden."

Client Retention

What percentage of your client's reschedule? If you don't know, it is a statistic you should start keeping track of. Shooting for 100 percent is great but probably unrealistic. If you want a full practice, shooting for 85 percent is a good goal. What do you do to keep them coming back? What makes them feel special? Do you ask them to reschedule or at least plant the seed that massage has cumulative benefits? I always do a 24-hour follow-up call with new clients. I tell the client that I will be contacting them the next day. I call to see how they responded to the treatment, how they slept and gather any other information that can help me adjust my treatment next time accordingly. This implies that there will be a next time. The seed is planted. It also means the hour session lasts longer, because I am thinking about them long after the time is up and the payment has been made. The clients get more value for their fee. More value equals happier clients, especially in today's economy. Happier clients mean higher retention.

Referral Program

So now you have new clients coming in and you are keeping them in your practice. You're half way there. What creative method can you use to entice those happy clients to bring in more business? How can you get them to consistently refer? The single best thing I do to get referrals is to turn down tips. YEP ... turn away money. I say, "Thank you so much but the best tip you can give me is the referral of your family and friends." Everyone wins here. Do the math. Would you rather have the $10 now or the $75 from a new client?

If you are struggling with your practice or if you need a jump-start towards more clients, be resourceful. Talk to successful colleagues and find out what they do to boost business. Times are tough and folks are smarter about massage. In order to keep up with these trends, you need to think outside the box. Now is the time to get creative.

Stay focused.

Click here for previous articles by Jenn Sommermann, LCMT.


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